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NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Condemns Obenshain’s Efforts to Ban Emergency Contraceptive Pills at JMU

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From NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia:

ALEXANDRIA – Yesterday, James Madison University students and faculty members spoke about anti-choice Attorney General candidate Mark Obenshain’s crusade to ban emergency contraception while serving as a member of the JMU Board of Visitors.

On April 18, 2003, while a member of the JMU Board of Visitors and Chair of the Education and Student Life Committee, Mark Obenshain led an effort to prohibit the university health center from dispensing emergency contraceptive pills (also known as “Plan B”).

Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, condemned this extreme effort as an example of Obenshain’s on-going crusade to restrict women’s health:

“Mark Obenshain has spent virtually his entire career attempting to insert himself in Virginians’ private, personal medical decisions. As state Senator he has made every effort to play doctor by supporting mandatory ultrasounds, crusading to close women’s health centers, and even sponsoring legislation that could banned access to abortion for victims of rape. In 2003 Obenshain decided to try his hand at pharmacy – this time by crusading to keep a common, safe, and FDA-approved method of emergency contraception from students who need it.

Like Ken Cuccinelli, Mark Obenshain has repeatedly demonstrated a complete disregard for women’s health and rights. Make no mistake: if elected Virginia’s top lawyer, Obenshain will continue to impose his extreme personal ideology on Virginia’s men, women and families. Just look at his record.”  

Mark Obenshain’s extreme record on women’s health:

  • Led the charge to stop the campus health center at James Madison University from dispensing emergency contraceptive pills. In 2003, Mark Obenshain argued that the pills induce abortion because, in some circumstances, they prevent an already fertilized egg from attaching itself to the uterus, despite the fact that the ‘morning after’ prescription pill contains levonorgestrel, a synthetic hormone that is officially a contraceptive. [See attached: The Washington Post, 04/24/03; Richmond Times Dispatch, 04/22/03; The Washington Post, 04/24/03; Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, 02/18/04]
  • ·Mark Obenshain voted in 2004, along with Ken Cuccinelli, to defeat “a ‘contraception is not abortion’ bill. Mark Obenshain and Ken Cuccinelli, on February 16, 2004, were two of 24 state senators who voted to reject Senate Bill 456, which was “a ‘contraception is not abortion’ bill.”  [Richmond Times Dispatch, 02/17/04, and SB 456, 2004] 

·  Co-Patroning the “Personhood” Bill. Obenshain has repeatedly supported “personhood” legislation that would outlaw all abortion and many common forms of birth control. [HB 2797, 2007; SB 1207, 2011]

  • Mark Obenshain, in 2012, voted for a “personhood” bill that would criminalize contraception. The bill would “effectively outlaw all” abortions in Virginia “by declaring that the rights of persons apply from the moment sperm and egg unite.”  Many “abortion-rights advocates call it nothing less than an attempt to outlaw all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest.” [HB 1, 2012] 

· Introducing A Bill That Would Require Women To Report Miscarriages To Police. “Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, made himself a lightning rod for criticism by introducing a bill that would require a woman to report her miscarriage to police within 24 hours.” [SB 962, 2009; Virginia Lawyers Weekly, 1/28/09]

· Voting in favor of the transvaginal ultrasound bill and calling it “common sense legislation.” In 2012 Mark Obenshain voted in favor of the transvaginal ultrasound bill and the amended version of the bill. Obenshain referred to the bill as “common sense legislation” and then referred to the amended version of the bill, which changed the law form requiring a transvaginal ultrasound to a transabdominal ultrasound, the “PG version” of the bill. [HB 462, 2012; SB 484, 2012; World Virginia, 2/08/12; Obenshain Tweet, 2/27/12]

· Sponsoring a Bill To Outlaw Abortions After Twenty Weeks, Also Known As The Virginia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act Or Fetal Pain Act. In February 2012, the Daily Press reported: “Sen. Harry Blevins, R-Chesapeake, abstained Thursday, thereby killing a measure before the Senate Education and Health Committee that would have outlawed elective abortions in Virginia after 20 weeks. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, would have made elective abortions after 20 weeks because he said there is medical evidence that a fetus can feel pain at that point in its gestation. The measure would have allowed abortions after that point if the mother’s life or health is threatened.” [Daily Press, 2/2/12; SB 637, 2012]